Sometime right after being hired by Popular Woodworking magazine in 1996 I saw my first Welsh stick chair in the British magazine Good Woodworking. I can remember the exact article. Heck, I own the article. It showed John Brown standing next to one of his chairs.
I was hooked, and there was nothing that could be done about it except to start building chairs.
Most things I write about are boxes and other carcase work, and I love that stuff to death. It’s my bread, butter and occasionally jam; it puts food on our table. But I tell other people that chairmaking is my hobby. I don’t talk much about my chairs on the blog. I don’t show my work to others unless they press me, and that’s because it really sucks. Really and truly sucks eggs through the tailpipe of a 1971 El Camino.
But I work at it all the time. I’ve taken more classes in chairmaking than in any other topic. I read everything I can find on the topic. And here’s why.
While I still stink as a chairmaker, it makes me a better woodworker.
Chairmaking introduced me to the lathe. To the drawknife. To a comprehension and mastery of compound angles. To steam-bending. To radical curves. To green wood. I could go one for maybe 20 more sentences like this, but you’d get bored until I mentioned the word “nipples.”
I think… no, more than that… I actually feel that chairmaking is a good thing for all woodworkers to try. It will open your eyes to parts of the craft that you thought were difficult but actually are ridiculously easy once you know the tricks and learn them from someone who truly knows his or her stuff.
And that’s why “Chairmaker’s Notebook” should be on your shelf. It’s disguised as a chairmaking book, but it’s actually a book about all the stuff in the craft that you probably have been ignoring or have been afraid to try. Yes, there is green woodworking in there. Yes, there are unfamiliar tools and ways of working that seem foreign.
But Peter Galbert has a way of explaining things that makes you say: “Duh. I get it now. Why did I think that operation was difficult.” For the last three years I have been working with Pete to bring “Chairmaker’s Notebook” to print. Editing the book was difficult at times because I was learning so much at the same time I was trying to refine the way it was being explained in print. Like trying to edit a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King.
So this book is a personal victory for me. It is the chairmaking book that I wish I’d had in 1996 when I saw that John Brown chair. I’m almost 20 years older now, but I’m thrilled that I finally have this book – both for me as well as you.
— Christopher Schwarz\
“Chairmaker’s Notebook,” written and illustrated by Peter Galbert, is available in the Lost Art Press Store with free domestic shipping until March 20, 2015 – the day the book ships from the printer.